As you may know if you've seen any of the past week's posts (since we can't seem to shut up about this project), Wendy and I decided to greatly expand the usable storage space in our kitchen with the purchase of several IKEA cabinets and a 6 foot section of butcher block counter top. Though we never really considered the use of IKEA cabinets in the past, our need for a quick and easy temporary solution for storage, and one that didn't break the bank, led us to the massive Scandanavian home store in search of...well, whatever we'd find.

Though much of what we saw wouldn't necessarily fit in with our home's decor, after quite a bit of exhaustive shopping, we had ourselves a purchase. The end result of our adventure was one 30" cabinet with two small and two large drawers, and one 15" cabinet with a lower drawer for garbage, and an upper concealed tray drawer for supplies. We opted for white carcasses and white raised panel MDF drawer and door fronts to try to match the style of our existing cabinets.

Ideally we would have used some of their wood door and drawer fronts, but that would have required us to either paint them ourselves or have them sprayed (I still don't have a sprayer, grumble grumble grumble, but I really need one). Had we gone that route, painting would add unwanted delay to our "quick" project that we're trying to knock out, and since it's a purely temporary solution until we do a full renovation in a couple years, we opted for the MDF. If we ever feel very strongly about it in the future, such as if our quick and temporary solutions lasts for many years, we can always replace the drawers and door fronts at a later time. Besides, it was a long and trying time at IKEA, and I feel like we came away as...not losers.

Though I did have initial reservations and some skepticism, I'm actually quite glad we bought the two cabinets at IKEA. I've long held an opinion of their snap and lock assembled pieces of furniture that sits somewhere between questionable quality and downright sacrilege for someone who appreciates old world craftsmanship. But truth be told, I think there's a time and place for it in many homes, including our own. For this reason, i'd like to share my general experience and opinion of the cabinets and their function now that our "build" is at least semi-complete.

We started our little adventure with boxes and bags of various cabinet, drawer, and door parts and pieces all over the place. I can easily see how this whole process could be overwhelming for people. Everything has seemingly random names all over them, like "Perfekt", "Akurum", or "Rational", and many pieces have the same name but a slightly different part number that determines a purpose. Before you tear into all of your boxes and bags, it's good to have an understanding of exactly what it is you're trying to build, and a good order of how it all goes together.

In our case, we had just two cabinets, a 30" and a 15", each with a few drawers. I can't imagine the number of boxes and packages necessary for a full kitchen. The guy at the register next to ours completed his purchase for $24,000!!! He's going to be getting a ton of boxes. 

At least our install is simple enough, right? I figured I'd start with the cabinet boxes, then move into drawer assembly once the boxes were in place. My plan worked pretty well, and I started off using the extremely clear cartoon instructions.

Ok, let's see...

  1. A pile of boards and a hammer do not make good friends, and that makes you sad. Don't be a sad loner, get yourself a friend (preferably with a pencil behind his ear) and you'll be happy once again. 
  2. If you happen to break a piece of your cabinet, a magic carpet will be along shortly to fix all of your problems and take you on a magical ride.
  3. If you can't understand cartoons, you should probably take everything back to IKEA and use one of their phones.

Got it! Let's get started!

Without much hesitation, and with the helpful drawings, I had the first box fully assembled in about 15-20 minutes. (Can you spot the error in my ways?)

We sped through the second and larger box in about 15 minutes, and as I was nailing the back onto that box, I realized my first mistake. I had applied the back piece of "wood" backwards, with the white side facing out. This simply meant the interior back would be brown instead of white. Since all of the nails were already in place when I (okay, so maybe it was Wendy) realized this issue, I decided to just leave it as is and hoped this would be the last and most major of my mistakes on this endeavor.

With that we began working to level the cabinets in place. Though IKEA assumes a somewhat level floor and plumb walls in their installation instructions, our home offers none of these such luxuries. Luckily, the bases of the cabinets sit on plastic feet that allow you to adjust the height of each one independently. This way we could ensure a perfectly level base from left to right and front to back, in spite of the fact our floor slopes and falls roughly 1 1/2" from left to right.

After establishing the locations of our cabinets and wine fridge...

...we placed the counter top on top of the area without securing it in place. We did this to ensure everything looked good, fit correctly, and would work given the available area.

With the counter top in place, we could see the new area in our kitchen beginning to take shape. Mel was also wasting no time in eyeing an area he's hoping to claim as his own. Sorry kiddo, no feline feet on the counters in this house. (Which is why he does his exploring and breaking of things at night when we're unable to stop him.)

Since we had all of the locations determined, we needed to be sure we could run the cord from the wine fridge to the outlet behind the right cabinet. To accomplish this task, I drilled a 1 1/2" hole in the bottom of the right cabinet and cut a rectangular opening in the rear of the cabinet to pass the cord through.

There was still quite a bit of work left to get this into a completed state, but all was really looking good.

Like the box assembly, the drawer install went very smoothly overall. It's quite literally as simple as screwing a few rails to the cabinet box using pre measured holes, snapping on the soft close device, snapping together the drawer sides, back, and base, then screwing on the drawer front and snapping it in place. You really can't get much more simple. Two of the large drawers are in front of Wendy, who was diligently working on the White Hutch face-lift painting project.

Each drawer probably took between 10-15 minutes to install. The only difficulty came with the larger drawer where you need to apply an additional screw to help support the extra potential weight, and a cross piece to support the weight of the long drawers. In both of these cases IKEA had (gasp) not drilled pilot holes. Though their diagram appears to indicate the use of an ice pick for this task, a rather odd set of pictures if you ask me, I used our drill and a small drill bit to provide pilot hole. Much more effective than an ice pick, I assure you.

We had knocked out quite a bit on our first day of working on this project, but we still had a fair amount left to complete. Still left to do:

  1. The wine fridge was sitting a few inches low and needs a platform to elevate it.
  2. The wall bows and leans, leaving a rather large gap behind the counter, and the tall baseboard needs to be cut so the left cabinet can sit further back to reduce the gap.
  3. The final pieces for the right cabinet is still en route from IKEA, and we'll need that so we can complete the project.
  4. We need to find hardware to match the other hardware in the kitchen.
  5. The kick plate/skirt board needs to be scribed to the slope of the floor, cut, and installed.
  6. And finally, we need to trim and affix the counter to the cabinet bases.

By no means was this a quick and simple, "just snap it together and be done," cabinet build. It's true that it is a far cry from the level of difficulty or time of a fully custom cabinet build, but it's still something that takes time, patience, and a willingness to figure out how best to approach each item. And can I tell you what a pain it is to move the wine fridge? Lots of unloading and reloading of this sweet nectar of the (mostly west coast) gods.

One more thing about the cartoons. I can say that they were spot on in the "how to correctly carry your ridiculously heavy butcher block counters" area.

Give me some action lines and a big "X" over what I'm doing and I've pretty much got the pose nailed.

We'll be back (hopefully early next week) to fill you in on all of the final nitty gritty details, and hopefully, eventually, some great "after" photos. But until then, let us know what you think about how it's coming together, or feel free to share a little about your furniture assembly experience. Have you had similar results, or are all of your projects like these simply child's play?

Comments 20


8/24/2012 at 1:00 PM
We have an entire kitchen of Ikea cabinets as our remodel is much more modern. I assembled them all which isn't too hard, just time consuming. The one thing I love is that I put mostly drawers in as my bottom cabinets (with the exception of two "skinnyish" cabinets, one for the trash, and one for cutting boards and cookie sheets). I LOVE the drawers and keep most of my plates and bowls down there freeing up the top cabinets for glassware and cooking stuff like spices, oils, etc. It's so much easier to reach into a drawer vs a cabinet at that level! Good luck with the rest of the project!
Thanks, Sara! I'm really loving the drawers so far. It will be a great test to see how we use them. I'm amazed at how much they can hold!
Tiffany Miller
8/24/2012 at 1:19 PM
We are currently doing the same thing (and same 30" two drawers) but times 7! We were hoping to re-use the cabinets like you had originally done but we had to rip them out and move everything around. We basically had to gut the kitchen and are slowly rebuilding. I LOVE having drawers and ended up buying two 30" and two 24" units...amazing how much they store! The slow closure perk is amazing, how do we live without these! I may use your "Make it Stone" tip for our bar countertop but haven't decided yet even after buying 5 cans. It's a lot of work but can't wait for the end result, good luck!!!
I totally agree on the slow closure. What a luxury!

Good luck with your kitchen project. It sounds great. :-)
8/24/2012 at 2:11 PM
I love Mel's photo bomb!
Haha! We thought it was pretty adorable. Then again, aside from vomiting, we think pretty much everything he does is adorable. :-)
8/24/2012 at 3:50 PM
Extra big like from me too re: Mel! That is so cat-like to be itching to try out the new furniture. Our cats seem to think that anything new (to us) we bring in our house is expressly there for them to walk around on/lounge on. Does he play with the boxes while you're building the cabinets?

And so true about the vomiting -- not at all cute especially when it's on our bed.
No, I can't say he was playing with the boxes, but he stays close and supervises any and all activity. He also likes to sit in things that are new, i.e. storage baskets, our new guest bath toilet before it was hooked up (no joke -, drawers, etc.
8/24/2012 at 7:00 PM
I love putting together ikea furniture. Looks great so far (especially your imitation of the cartoon carrying the butchers block.)
:-) Thanks, Bull! The real question though is does it look less crappy than when we bought the house?
8/25/2012 at 1:07 AM
We've long thought about doing something similar in our laundry room but have never got around to it. I think Alan is intimidated by the "build your own cabinetry" prospect.
As it's turning out, the building of the cabinetry has been relatively simple. It's just the horrible existing cabinetry and out of level/plumb floor and walls that are presenting the challenges. :-)
Teri Lynn
8/25/2012 at 8:42 AM
We actually bought an entire Ikea bedroom once down to the mattress (horrible choice) and it came in so many boxes we had to have a staging area just to organize them before we could put them together. Loved your interpretation of the instructions too. I have been thinking about using their countertops so I will be interested to see what yours look like when it's all finished.
Knowing how many boxes there were for our little project, I can only imagine what an entire bedroom looked like!

We've been toiling away on the counter tops all weekend and it's turning out to be much more labor intensive than we imagined. I think it will look really nice when we're finished though. Stay tuned...
8/26/2012 at 11:08 AM
It's going to be a great "after" I think and will probably make so much more sense for the way you live. If you ever want to borrow a paint sprayer, feel free to borrow ours!
Thanks so much for the offer, Melissa. We may take you up on it when it comes time to work on the bathroom vanity. :-)
1/31/2013 at 8:51 PM
Love your interpretation of the cartoons... My wife and son decided it meant before starting each new piece you had to face each other with hands on hips and smile! Thy did and it helped!!!
3/28/2013 at 10:31 AM
Congrats on a great project/hack. You have inspired me to build the kitchen island I have been dreaming of having. Can I please ask what is the name of the door style you have selected for your wine bar?
11/9/2017 at 9:20 AM

Would you mind sharing how much you spent on just the IKEA cabinets for your wine bar? Trying to get a rough idea how much something like that would cost. Thanks so much for your help! It looks great!

3/31/2018 at 10:21 AM

Hi we are currently working on installing our ikea kitchen and on our first cabinet we did the same thing and installed the back panel backwards (the brown side is on the inside). We are thinking about just leaving it because that cabinet is going to have drawers in it and I don't even think you will be able to see it after the drawers are installed. I was wondering how yours turned out with the panel installed backwards and if you even notice now that you are using it. Thanks!

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